As Blood Supply Dwindles, Humanists Call on FDA to Reevaluate Further its Discriminatory Blood Donation Policy



(Mon., May 4, 2020) Barker, TX. — Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB), an international secular humanist charity whose work includes recovery efforts following disasters and humanitarian crises, is partnering with the American Humanist Association (AHA) to ask for further reforms to the U.S. FDA’s anti-gay blood donation policy.

An unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations as a result of the coronavirus outbreak has led to a severe blood shortage. The blood industry's major organizations, AABB, America’s Blood Centers, and the American Red Cross, have reported more than 12,000 blood drives canceled, resulting in some 355,000 fewer blood donations. FBB’s volunteer network organizes more than a dozen blood donor events annually, and is encouraging members to continue giving blood throughout the current public health crisis.

But not all healthy people can donate. Men who have sex with men (MSM) are not allowed to give blood unless they have been completely abstinent for three months preceding the donation. Female and nonbinary partners of MSM are also prohibited from donating blood for three months following intercourse with MSM, as are many transgender people. The same restrictions apply to sorely-needed plasma donations for experimental COVID-19 treatments.  

The FDA announced a new three-month restriction on April 2, 2020 to replace an earlier year-long ban, but realistically, this rule is still a categorical prohibition applied to an entire group of people.

“As an organization that engages in disaster recovery work, FBB advocates for effective, science-based practices to meet emergency needs,” says Noelle George, president of Foundation Beyond Belief. “Determining donor eligibility using sexual orientation and an unscientific time period is counterproductive. Unity and scientific policy are our best tools to meet the challenges of COVID.” 

FBB and AHA launched a petition campaign today calling on the FDA to reevaluate their outdated discriminatory blood donation policy, and instead implement one based on an individualized risk-based assessment that evaluates empirically relevant risk factors, not sexual orientation or gender.

"It's past time to discard the questionable and dated categorical exclusion of a group from participation in this critically needed form of relief,” noted Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Instead, as always, we should be advocating for public health policy guided by scientific evidence."

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